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Translation of French poem
"Barbara"

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by Jacques Prevert


Remember, Barbara,
It was raining unceasingly on Brest that day,
And you were walking, smiling,
Lighted up, delighted, streaming,
Under the rain.

Remember, Barbara,
It was raining unceasingly on Brest,
And I met you on Siam Street.
You were smiling,
And I was smiling likewise.

Remember, Barbara,
You whom I didn't know,
You who didn't know me,

Remember,
Remember though that day.
Don't forget.

A man was sheltered under a porch,
Streaming, delighted, lighted up,
And you threw yourself into his arms.
Remember that Barbara.

And don't bear a grudge against me
if I use the familiar form with you.
I say you (familiar form) to all whom I love.
Even if I have only seen them one time
I say you (familiar form) to all whom I love.
Even if I don't know them.

Remember, Barbara.
Don't forget
This wise and happy rain
On this happy city.
This rain on the sea,
On the shipyard,
On the boat Ouessant.

Oh, Barbara,
What a "connerie" war.
What did you become now?
Under this rain of iron,
Of fire, of sword, of blood

And the one who was squeezing you
in his arms lovingly,
Did he disappear dead or is he yet still living?
(this is loosely translated)

Oh, Barbara,
It is raining unceasingly on Brest,
As it rained before.

But it's not the same and everything is spoiled.
It's a rain of terrible and desolate mourning.
It's no longer the storm of iron, sword, bloodshed.

Very simply the clouds,
which burst as dogs,
The dogs which disappeared
With the stream on (over) Brest
And which go to rot in the distance,
In the distance very far from Brest,
Of which nothing is left.





NOTES FROM THE TRANSLATOR :
This loses a lot in the translation, and I'm really not sure exactly what's going on, especially
at the end. The word "chien" means dog, but the dictionary also says it can mean the hammer
of a gun, but I can't see that it makes sense either way! I hope I was fairly accurate.
The word "connerie" I couldn't find at all. This poem is very heavy.
Do you know the formal and familiar forms that some languages have? People use the familiar
with children and people who are close to them. That is touched on in this poem.
Brest is a city on the ocean and is the farthest point west in France."

I RECEIVED THIS INFORMATION FROM OTHER READERS :
"Hi! My name is Stephanie and I am French. I read your translation of
'Barbara,' which is pretty accurate except for the part 'crevent
comme des chiens, des chiens qui disparaissent.' See in French 'dog'
can have a bad meaning as in English. Here what the author meant was
that those poor guys who were sent to war, died without anybody caring.
As for 'crever' it is slang for 'to die,' thus reinforcing the
meaning of them dying in a stupid context. Also you were wondering
about 'conneries.' It is slang for 'stupidities.' Hope it helped."

"I am a french reader, and I was very pleased to see your web site...
in the poem 'Barbara,' "connerie" means nonsense;
what a nonsense war is: quelle connerie la guerre..."

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This page was last updated 13 June 2009 Barbara Logan
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